COVID-19: Bluesfest to proceed as promoters ask fans to keep gigging [updated]
The ‘heartbroken’ organisers behind Bluesfest have cancelled the 2020 edition next month. The following statement was issued today (March 16):
It is obvious we will not be on this Easter. We are heartbroken as we believe we were presenting one of the best ever bills of talent for you. I was in discussions right through last week with every headliner – they ALL said they’re coming as long as nothing occurred to prevent them from doing so. That is the level of commitment that our artists have, and I am proud of that.
I must now thank every one of you for supporting us. The emails and posts are deeply appreciated at this time.
We are now working through how to move forward and to give you details. I thank you for allowing us enough time to get everything in place for the best possible outcome for everyone.
Bluesfest promoter Peter Noble won’t be deterred by the spread of coronavirus, with the Byron Bay festival “going ahead as planned” between April 9 and 13 at Tyagarah Tree Farm.
On Wednesday the COVID-19 virus was officially labelled a “pandemic” by the World Health Organisation, but the Australian live sector says it’s “business as usual”.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has ask the states to cancel mass gatherings of more than 500 people.
“Both NSW Health and the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), the federal body, report that attending public events such as Bluesfest are low risk,” Noble wrote in a statement shared on the festival’s Facebook page.
“We want to assure you that we are currently implementing the recommended extra safety measures and additional facilities in order to consider the general health and safety of patrons, artists and staff at the event.”
Australia’s live performance industry, which contributes more than A$2.5 billion to the country’s economy each year and employs over 34,000 people, is paying close attention to the evolving situation around the spread of COVID-19 both locally and overseas.
Live Performance Australia chief executive, Evelyn Richardson, said the health and well-being of punters and performers remain the top priority.
“At this stage, the advice of the Commonwealth’s Chief Medical Officer is that there is no material risk associated with attending a public gathering,” she said.
“Obviously, people who have been in COVID-19 affected countries, or have had contact with a confirmed case or are unwell should stay away from public gatherings, but otherwise it should be safe to attend.”
Bluesfest promoter Peter Noble
Richardson also said that LPA will continue to follow advice from authorities.
“If and when the official advice changes, we will work closely with health authorities to respond to their advice.”
Talking to TMN on Wednesday, March 11, a Bluesfest spokesperson confirmed that extra precautions will be taken to keep attendees safe, including sanitisation stations across the venue.
“Bluesfest will be supplying additional hand sanitisation facilities at our toilets and throughout the festival site.”
A number of Australian promoters, who spoke to TMN on the condition of anonymity, have expressed concern over the “hysteria” surrounding COVID-19 among consumers and industry.
Multiple promoters said ticket sales for a number of upcoming events are slowing and also expressed fears that more headliners could follow Miley Cyrus’ lead and cancel altogether.
“Miley’s decision to pull out of the bushfire fundraiser was selfish,” said one prominent promoter. “Robbie [Williams] is still coming. She’s done a major disservice to the industry given our low-risk status here in Australia.”
LPA is now urging Aussies to keep buying tickets, performers to keep travelling Down Under and hoping promoters will continue putting on great shows while safe to do so.
“Each promoter or event organiser will need to make a decision on their event and circumstances and we respect those decisions,” says Richardson, “although we will always start from the position of what the official health advice says.
“It remains safe to attend a live performance, and I encourage all Australians to continue to make the most of our dynamic, diverse and vibrant live performance sector.”